Next month will mark a year since I departed the 570, which is now weirdly also the 272. NEPA will always loom large in my memory. As a philosopher once put it, always we exist stretched between the future and the past. Nearly my whole past resides within NEPA, though each day I’m away that part recedes a little. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and it can be deceptive, but I don’t believe my happiest memories of Scranton are illusions.
When I began attending college, I was excited to go to Scranton, the big city. As a child, I loved going to there. It was where there was a restaurant in the shape of a ship. It was where the trains were. It was where I went to pick up new siblings.
Perhaps my earliest memory of Scranton was going there to pick up Michael and my mother from the hospital after he was born. Our family had one car, an ‘80s Toyota Tercel, and (I’m not making this up) when my parents secured all of us in our car-seats and shut the door, the door on the other side flew open, as if we were part of some giant Newton’s cradle.
During our freshman year at the U, Alisa and I spent hours exploring the city, and we were delighted to discover places like Northern Lights, Zummo’s, Marquis Art and Framing, and Anthology Bookstore. Though the city’s coal age luster had almost completely wore off by the time we got there, the place retained some of its former splendor, and still does. You just have to seek it out.
On an SD card somewhere I have photos from one of our excursions downtown that year. We joked that that we wanted to be “artsy,” so we donned scarves and drank “artisanal” coffee at N. Lights before exploring Scranton with our matching point-and-shoot cameras, looking to make details of the urban landscape. I submitted a few of those prints to “Esprit.” None of them made the cut.
That year was one of the happiest and most exciting times of my life. Scranton was an escape from our humdrum Olyphant existence, comprised mostly of our 13 years at a crappy school district and our entire lives in a spiritually abusive church. The world was widening, and our dreams came in the shape of the electric city.
If you can play Scranton, you can play anywhere.